By Karen Wilkinson

Triplicate staff writer

Most Del Norte County businesses couldn't take credit or debit card transactions - and in some cases personal checks - much of Saturday after a fiber optic cable in Humboldt County was severed.

A structure fire just north of Willits around 6 a.m. burned the fiber optic cable that connects Humboldt and Del Norte counties to the outside world.

Crescent City's Home Depot reported a $22,000 loss in business, as communications were down until about 1 p.m., store manager Mark Decker said.

Even then, however, the store could only take credit cards, andquot;but it was very slow,andquot; Decker said.

By Sunday debit cards were usable at Home Depot, and so was its electronic check verifier, he said.

But the communication breakdown couldn't have happened on a worse day, Decker said. Saturday is the home improvement store's busiest day of the week, taking in 15 percent to 20 percent of its weekly total.

And with the remarkably nice weather the area's experienced lately, many people are working on home projects, he said.

About 200 Home Depot customers were turned away, Decker said. Even so, andquot;(they) were very understanding,andquot; he said.

Just north at Smoke Signals, owner Mike Kleinschmidt wasn't as affected four customers left because they were without cash but sales during the week typically exceed Saturday's.

Closer to the heart of town, Safeway Food and Drug was running as usual, as the grocery wasn't hit at all.

Relief store manager Brian Ridgley said he didn't quite know why the store wasn't affected. andquot;We were just lucky (and) fortunate that we didn't go down,andquot; he said.

But some hoping to withdraw cash from ATMs ran into a bit of trouble, as U.S. Bank and Tri Counties Bank customers reported they were unable to do so.

U.S. Bank teller Jennifer Moore said she didn't know how long the ATM was down, but it was andquot;hit and missandquot; with allowing withdraws.

Washington Mutual, however, reported a smooth day, said Diane Hamblin, senior personal finance representative.

Though the outage didn't last long, as ATandamp;T crews restored the cable that afternoon, Decker foresees possible problems in the future.

andquot;It probably won't be the last time (to happen) either,andquot; he said.